Iceland: A Road Trip Through the Land of Fire and Ice
We visited Iceland in summer of 2014 for 12 days. One of the benefits is that you can also discover the inland that is not reachable during winter. Another benefit of summer is that you can enjoy the midnight sun that is really surreal when you are not used to the natural phenomena. Also, during the night, it is clear enough to go sit outside and enjoy the environment!
Driving in Iceland is possible along the Ring Road, where you can visit the most popular highlights and attractions. If you want to see more from Iceland’s spectacular nature, like we did, I can recommend you rent a 4X4 and discover the Highlands in the inland with beautiful regions like Landmannalaugar, where we started our trip. It is really one of the best rides in Iceland. The landscapes are breathtaking and beyond each curve on the road, you will be surprised again. The mountainous area is characterized by colorful Rhyolite mountains in colors of brown, yellow, deep red-brown and green. There are hot springs, crater lakes and the region is a paradise for hiking. The famous trail Laugavegur is situated here.
In the south, we visited a few famous waterfalls like the Seljalandsfoss and the Skogafoss. The most spectacular thing about Seljalandsfoss is the path visitors can take. You can walk behind the wall of water and you get a wet suit for free. It was an exciting feeling! Also in that area, we went to the black beaches of Vik. You can meet the really charming puffins, which are living on the steep cliffs and rocks like Dyrholaey. We were in the wrong season to see the puffins and we saw just a few.
After south coast, we drove to the National Park Skaftafell in the east. First, we passed the area of Eldhraun, which looked almost alien, with moss-covered lava flow. This was so amazing! In the Skaftafell park, visitors can choose between several hikes from 30 min to 11 hours. Along the hike, we had magnificent views of the Vatnajökull and his tongues and waterfalls like the Svartifoss. The weather conditions were not so good at the time of our visit. It was very windy, cold, wet and it felt like it was almost freezing. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the environment.
Another must see along the Ring Road is the glacier lagoon, Jökulsarlon. This is really magic! Icebergs from the Breidamerjökull are sliding in the lagoon and they float very slowly into the ocean. With a little luck, you can see seals playing and swimming between the icebergs. It was such a magical moment seeing the seals from very close up. Our next sleeping place was in Egilsstadir. To reach that place we had two options; we could take the Ring Road or we could take the Öxi-highlandpass. My husband is an enthusiastic driver so we choose the second option. It is also a road only 4X4’s can access and we decided only at the very last-minute not to drive because it was too windy and too misty. In that area, we visited another stunning waterfall named the Hengifoss. Special to this waterfall are the layers of red clay between the layers of basalt stone. Follow the 2,5km – 1.9mi hiking trail and you get to stand face to face with this majestic fall.
The next region we visited was the Myvatn-area. Myvatn is one of the biggest lakes in Iceland. It is a paradise for bird watching and nature lovers. In the shallow lake, several small islands are the habitat of many species of ducks. The area is most popular by visitors because of the many spectacular and awesome natural phenomena’s, such as the geothermal plains of Namaskard, volcanoes, pseudo-craters and much more. Namaskard is a kind of moon landscape with steamy sulfur holes and boiling pools with mud in different colors but mostly grey. It’s very important to follow the paths otherwise accidents can happen. I would hate to be boiled alive! In the neighborhood of Namaskard, another must-see is the Viti-crater. It is a crater lake formed after an eruption of a volcano and the hike is along the edge. Deep down, you can see the awesome turquoise water and it is wonderful. In Husavik, whale-watching tours are organized, but when we wanted to do that, the weather conditions were again very bad and we decided to drive further and visit the region of the Hljodaklettar gorge. It felt like hiking on the moon or on an alien planet. You will see such bizarre lava stone formations!
In the northeast is situated another famous waterfall, the Dettifoss. It is apparently the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The water comes from the nearby Vatnajökull glacier and it is colored grey-ish white because of sediments. When the water falls, it causes a massive crashing spray you can see from the road and the parking lot. Just a few minutes hike in the other direction from the Dettifoss, you can admire the Sellfoss. Both are situated close to each other. In north-central Iceland, we visited the Godafoss waterfall. It is easy to reach and is just off the main Ring Road. Although it is just 12m high, it is among Iceland’s larger waterfalls and also very famous and beautiful because of the rocks in and around the water.
When driving the Kjölur-route, we passed another geothermal area named Hveravellir and it means ‘field of hot sources.’ The location is stunning and is a height of 650m – 2133ft above sea level between the glaciers of Hofsjökull and Langjökull. More than 30 hot pools are found here and the earth surface is so thin that all around you can hear hissing and bubbling. Geysers squirt steam and hot water. Don’t walk outside the designated paths! Nearby Gulfoss, we visited the Gullfoss waterfall. This was really an outstanding beauty and one of the biggest highlights from whole Iceland trip. If you are lucky and the sun is shining, beautiful rainbows are formed above the fall but we didn’t see one. The views from the different viewpoints are spectacular. The visit to Strokkur was a highlight. It is a fountain geyser that squirts water every 5 – 10 minutes and shoots steam columns to a height of 20 – 30m – 66 – 98ft. The height depends from time to time. Wait a few minutes before a bright turquoise and blue bubble is formed at the surface of the waterhole. Then the magic happens! You won’t believe your eyes! In that area, we also took a look at the Kerid crater lake. You can walk down in the crater nearby the beautiful turquoise colored water.
To complete our road trip in Iceland, we treated ourselves to a visit at the Blue Lagoon in Grindavik, near Reykjavik. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal bath embedded in the lava fields. Bathing in the milky blue water, which is naturally enriched with minerals and very healthy for people with skin diseases as psoriasis, is really a very exciting experience. Without doubt, this is a real must do or at least must see for visitors of Iceland. If you don’t like to swim, you can enjoy sitting in the panoramic restaurant with views of the lagoon. The whole organization is professional and you can even rent towels and bathrobes. The dressing rooms are very clean and we don’t have a negative comment.
Iceland is a country that has stolen my heart. Remember, weather conditions can be harsh and some days feel like winter, but if you can put that aside, you can enjoy a country of extraordinary beauty. Beyond each curve on the road, the landscapes are surprising. If you have any hesitation, don’t! Book a flight and go and see all this beauty with your own eyes.